Two things happened today.
For one thing, I woke up with an unsightly bump on my nose. This makes it sound like the bump was new, which is not true. In fact, it’s been sitting on my nose for a while. In a sort of existential dread at the prospect of turning twenty-five last September, I got worried that life was passing me by too quickly. The obvious solution for this seemed to me to dye my hair blonde, which I did. When the hairdresser, who had come over to England from China a while ago, only able to do so because his sister had promised to stay with their parents, whom he hadn’t seen for a very long time because of the pandemic, which made him sad, removed the silver aluminium from my hair and revealed the new me to me in the mirror, I was very pleased with the result. But there remained some residual dread in the pit of my stomach, for various reasons, not all of which, but some of which, were abundantly clear to me. One thing I knew was that I had started to longingly think back to the old me that had had a nose ring, the me that had travelled beautiful places and decided on a whim to pierce her nose in a small town in New Zealand, before starting university and becoming a serious personTM. I’d taken it out some time ago, for serious personTM reasons (meaning for an interview). The days leading up to the interview, I had angstily tried to make up my mind on whether taking it out was an imperative, or whether it was, in fact, me starting to sell my soul, the beginning of my very personal value shift (a term I only learnt about yesterday).
I ended up taking it out, and that was that.
This longing I had felt for a while now had led me to strike a curious bargain with my friend one grey Friday in January, crouching in the university toilet in a beautiful sandstone building on the Strand, waiting for our lateral flow test result, because another friend had sent us the dreaded message of testing positive for Covid. So, while we were crouching in the bathroom, waiting for our results, we struck a bargain; should the test be positive, we will go home and isolate. Should it be negative, we will go to Notting Hill and I will get my nose piercing (and by extension, hopefully, my old self) back. My test was negative and so I upheld my end of the bargain, and went to Notting Hill to get my nose piercing back. I’m not sure I got my old self back (I don’t think I did, but that’s okay, too). And in the process of my nose healing from being pierced, it got infected and developed a bump. This reminds me of another story, but it is one that I do not want to think about right now, while I am sitting in the sunshine on Chancery Lane, and anyway, one story always leads to the next and I do not have time to tell them all. I will therefore skip over it and talk about the second thing that happened today: I was walking to the library, already late since it always takes me longer to get ready in the morning than I think it will, this in part also being owed to the bump on my nose and the daily teabag compresses I have to perform on it. Walking down Chancery Lane, I got a coffee to take with me, but then the wooden chairs outside the café looked so inviting, shone on as they were by the tentative March sun, so I sat down, and instead of taking out my laptop, I took out my book, and read it all the way to the end, in the sunshine, and it made me cry and laugh, and I did not feel bad for it, because it had been a morning well spent. While I was sitting there and soaking up the words and the sun and the coffee and the peace, someone walking past me said something nice, judging from their kind face, and although I couldn’t understand them because I was listening to music, I felt some sort of kinship with them, nonetheless, and with everyone else walking past, because we all must have been thinking the same thing today: how extraordinarily lucky, to live in London on a beautiful spring day like this one, where the sun is shining and one can sit outside and drink a coffee and read a book, and feel like everything will be quite alright in the end (the bumps and the future and the re- and discovering of old and new selves).